Snow Hits Coulsdon 2016

As the New York City, Washington DC and the rest of much of the US East Coast braces itself for 2ft of snow and blizzards (good luck everybody), my very own Coulsdon in Surrey experienced just enough slow last weekend to not have any real impact but to certainly make to place look beautiful.  It would be nice to have a little more (not 2ft and blizzards) beats the mild very very wet and damp winter we’ve been having.

Here are a few shots I managed to grab on an early Sunday morning stroll around the neighborhood.

Bradmore Green Pond, Old Coulsdon

Snow in Coulsdon with the Shard on the horizon

Cane Hill and Farthing Downs, Coulsdon

The 2015 Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

1903 Riley Forecar

The world’s longest running motoring event, the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.  Having started in 1896 the event has run almost every year on the first Sunday in November since.  Starting at Hyde Park, London and finishing on the Sussex coast at Brighton some 60 miles away all you need to enter is a car built before 1905!!.  All entrants are therefore over 110 years old.  Some cars are even steam powered!

I had the pleasure of a lovely autumn morning  to catch some of these cars driving past Coulsdon in Surrey.

Below are just a few shots I managed to grab, more are available on my Website www.8dcphotography.co.uk

1904 Pope-Toledo

1903 Gladiator Tonneau

1904 Gladiator Side Entrance Tonneau

1904 Curved Dash Oldsmobile

The Mid West American Road Trip

Wow, first off apologies for such a long hiatus, summer was very busy and blog time has been at a premium.  Finally though I expect to get a little bit of free time over the next week or so to update you all on the American Road Trip I’d mentioned in a previous post.

In short and amazing holiday/vacation plenty of photo’s taken and plenty to share in coming posts.  But for now a very quick photo summary to whet you appetites…..

Having started off on a 9 hour flight from London Heathrow.

London Heathrow

We landed for a very short initial stay at Denver

Denver Colorado

The next day we drove to Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore (Black and White)

and then onto Badlands National Park

The Badlands

before heading West towards Devils Tower

Devils Tower

where we met a large colony of Prairie Dogs

Prarie Dog

Still heading west we stopped off at the Little Bighorn battlefield.

Little Bighornand then headed over the Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass

Into the beautiful Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Falls (Landscape)

where we sat by Yellowstone lake on a moonless night and stared at the Milk Way

Yellowstone Lake Milky Way

Our next trip took us South to the Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons Mormans Row

and then on a long drive over the Rockies to Salt Lake City

Utah State Capitol Building

Another Drive took us South and East towards Moab where we visited Arches national Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

… and the stunning Canyonlands National Park

Dead Horse Point Panorama, UtahNearing the end of our trip we headed east back towards Denver

Denver City

A fantastic and memorable holiday that I will never forget.  We covered 6 states experienced temperatures from -2 to 34 deg C and covered 2843 miles.

Milage

 

Just glad the Pilot decided to clean the screen before we headed back to London.

When I'm Cleaning Windows

 

 

Tour of the American Mid-West….ish (a Photographer’s Dream)

3 weeks, 2500+ miles, 6 (possibly 7 states) and loads of fantastic photographic opportunities.  Mrs 8DCPhoto has only gone and booked the holiday (vacation) of a lifetime for the 8DC Photo Family!!!

NB:  For those states we are visiting, you can be assured that despite being Northern Europeans we will not be adopting the traditional  18th Century “Grand Tour” practices.  So your culture, art and historic relics will not be pillaged, though I may fill a few SD cards taking pictures of them all.

We’re big fans of travelling around the USA and having made 4 trips from the UK in the last 10 years we’re about to increase our experience significantly from our previous visits to the West (California, Utah, Arizona, Nevada) and Florida.  We’re confident independent travellers and usually don’t waste our precious holidays by staying at one hotel taking root by the pool or on the beach… I’d go mad after a day.  We much prefer to hire a car and plan out various places to visit and get around a bit when on holiday.

Image courtesy of the Cavender Boys

This year’s trip is no exception, but we will be racking up the mileage and ticking off some of those bucket list places as never before. So look out Colorado, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho,  Utah  and quite possibly Nebraska , the 8DCPhoto family road trip is heading your way in the summer of 2014 and I promise we’re nothing like the Griswold’s…. the mother-in-law couldn’t make it and the hire company were short of Wagon Queen Family Trucksters (see right) with roof bars.

No doubt some of you will have guessed that given the list of States we’ll be travelling through we  might possibly be hitting a few of the US’s National Parks.  We love the US National Parks, they are such a wonderful public resource that are second to none in terms of the value for money (we have the annual NPS pass booked) and facilities provided.  Whilst we have fantastic National Parks in the UK and Europe too we could learn a thing or two from the NPS in the US.

So where are we heading I hear you ask?

The Tour RouteIn short we are Flying in and out of Denver, Colorado and taking a broadly counter clockwise circular route north taking in Fort Laramie, Mt Rushmore, The Badlands, Devils Tower (I’m a great fan of Close Encounters, “Dar Dee Dar Dor Daaaaah”), Little Bighorn Battlefield, The Bear tooth pass highway, Yellowstone, the Tetons, Salt Lake City, Canyonlands and Arches, before heading back to Denver via Vail.

So as you can see we’re heading out on one hell of a road trip and I hope it will be an experience never to be forgotten especially for the younger members of the 8DC Photo Family.  I certainly intend to blog about the trip, probably on our return as I think Wi-Fi and or the mobile signal might be a little sparse in various places along the route plus I want to make the most of the break.

So why am I telling you this? I’m not boasting, though I do feel generally smug about this holiday, but what would be really great and in the interests of a photographer being prepared and planning ahead, would be for you readers whether you’re a photog or not out to make some suggestions, pass on tips let me know your own experiences. For example:

  • What are some of those off-the-track places to visit along the route?
  • What are the best sites away from the crowds in the National Parks esp in Yellowstone? whilst we have youngish kids coming along they’re not afraid of a 3-5 mile hike, I have them in training.
  • What tips can you share when visiting the towns along the way, where to eat quirky places to see? To help you out we will be staying in Denver CO, Custer SD, Rapid City SD, Sheridan WY, Red Lodge MT, In the Park at Yellowstone, Jackson Hole WY, Salt Lake City UT, Moab UT and Vail CO.
  • Is there anything we should consider visiting in North West Nebraska around Alliance, Scottsbluff or Chadron? We’re currently skirting past Nebraska and I feel compelled to grab another state while we’re there.
  • What kit should I take with me? As a minimum I’m thinking my Canon EF 24-105 L (general walkabout Lens), Canon EF 100-400 L (Wildlife in the Parks) and my Sigma 10-20 (for Landscapes).  Obviously my Tripod will be packed but is it worth taking a fast prime e.g. my Sigma 30mm F1.4?

So please feel free to pass on your tips by commenting on this post, any will be greatly appreciated especially if you’re local along the route, locals always know best.

Thanks for reading and if you’re a resident of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah or South Dakota keep an eye out for a family of 4 Brits in an SUV hitting your streets around August and September this year.

Links:

Cristine Eastin’s American Road Trip

Three Girls Move West, Spring Break Road Trip to South Dakota

Bucking the Trend, 2013 Epic Summer Road Trip

Views of Farthing Downs, Coulsdon

Farthing Downs Sunset

I recently submitted one of my images to the local newspaper, the Croydon Advertiser as part of their #visionsofcroydon theme.  The image as you can see was of a beautiful summer sunset looking across Farthing Downs towards what was Cane Hill Hospital just south of Coulsdon town centre, it is a really stunning area.  I feel lucky to live here being able to enjoy the countryside and be within a stone’s throw of London – the best of both worlds.

Yesterday I found said image taking a prime double page spread.  Fantastic, but it was a favourable comment from a local conservative council candidate that got me thinking.

“Looks Amazing” he said, “it is I thought”.  However the very same conservative council that run Croydon are, it would seem hell bent on taking away such views for future generations.  You see the Cane Hill hospital site is due to be redeveloped for housing after many years of laying derelict and unloved.  Now I am the first person to recognise the acute housing shortages that have been building up in London over the last 30 years and agree there is need to build more homes and quickly, but what is being proposed for Coulsdon’s Cane Hill site represents over development and these views are very likely to be consigned to history.

So please enjoy a few of my favourite images of Cane Hill and Farthing Downs, lets hope the views aren’t damaged too much.

The Wedding Photographer

Just over 12 months ago I broke one of the cardinal sins for a photographer.  On a trip to my homeland (the great North West of England) and in a slightly drunken yet elated state I offered to take the photographs for two very good friends of mine who had recently announced the date of their forth-coming wedding.

The next morning, slightly hung-over, I recalled my “generous” offer and hoped that the couple to be might have suffered a greater alcohol induced memory haze than myself.  I’d returned back to London and nothing had been mentioned for at least a week, “phew that was a close shave” I thought and then, that fateful email pinged into my Inbox.

“were you serious about taking the pics for the wedding Andy?”

“yes no problem, call it my wedding present to you both…..”, hmmmmm mistake number 2.

Registry Office So I was now well and truly committed.  I’ve taken snaps before at many weddings but never as the “official photographer” so the pressure was on to deliver the goods, plus I was also a guest at the wedding which would include a large group of some of my very best friends… we don’t often get the chance to all get together so I didn’t want miss a great opportunity for a catch-up.  I had 5 months to prep myself (plenty of time) the only other additional complication was the wedding was to be held in Spain!!! To be more accurate the ceremony in Gibraltar and the reception later in the day at a Villa on the Costa Del Sol.

So with a few weeks to go I thought it might be prudent to read-up on the subject and take-in the do’s and don’ts.  I’d also need to confirm the finer details with the bride and groom e.g. timings locations and logistics.  Logistics, I found with research, would be important especially given we would drive down in the morning to Gibraltar for the ceremony at 11am.  This would mean having to deal with the border crossing from the Spanish town of La-Linea into Gibraltar and the notorious traffic queues caused by the overzealous Spanish border officials.

With Flights and Car hire booked, my camera kit packed and a memorised (backed up with paper) list of MUST HAVE shots I set off for Gatwick Airport bound for Malaga on a late night flight that would get me to the Villa a couple of days before the wedding.  Those 2 days prior to the wedding were great, I had to chance to have a few beers with the lads and tease more details out about the ceremony and reception which helped me plan in my mind how I’d tackle the task at hand.

The LadiesDay of the wedding, and a early start.  I was responsible for making sure the groom was up and ready in time for the best man to collect us from the Villa where we would drive south to Gibraltar.  This meant I’d have to be up even earlier to get myself suited and booted and make sure all my kit was ready to go.

First logistics success was the decision we’d taken NOT to attempt to drive over the border into Gibraltar.  On arrival in La-Linea the expected traffic queues materialised so we decamped on the Spanish side of the and hot-footed it over the border, which for those that have not experienced this before means about a mile walk through the border, across the runway of Gibraltar’s International airport before you can grab a short bus ride into town.  This wouldn’t have been too bad if it wasn’t for the heat combined with the weight of my kit and the full suit I was wearing.  After a quick hydration stop we arrived in good time outside Gibraltar’s tiny registry office.  This gave me a chance to get the groom and his family shots in before the bride and her bridesmaids arrived as well as the much welcomed opportunity to cool down in the shade.

The bride arrived a little late, as is permitted (and expected) which gave a great opportunity to grab shots of her and the bridesmaids walking up, reservoir dogs style through, the narrow cobbled street that approached the registry office.

To describe Gibraltar’s registry office as small would be an understatement.  There is about enough room for the Bride, the Groom and registrar plus about 7 guests – it is literally an office!!! So not too good for shots other than then obligatory signing of the register and the happy couple together.

Post the ceremony we took a stroll towards the Marina to celebrate with a quick mid morning glass of champers and the route there gave me ample opportunity to grab some shots amongst the old town walls of Gibraltar, coincidentally right next to Gibraltar’s own Photography Club.

The early afternoon would see us all drive back north towards Malaga where a humanist reception amongst the remaining guests and friends would await us.  This is where it would get difficult as many of my friends would be gathered there and in no time the drinks would be flowing whilst I had to keep on my game for the remainder of the day.  I’d previously promised myself that I’d only partake in a couple of drinks on arrival and through the meal, setting myself a cut-off time post the bride and groom’s first dance, then I could put the kit away and play catch-up.

The BrideAll went smoothly, corralling the guests for pictures was easier than expected primarily because my friends were assisting in ushering people together and as I think everybody knew I was also a guest I got more opportunities to blend in and get some great documentary shots which really helped to tell the story of the day, and true to my promise I put the kit (well most of it) away after the end of the first dance.

The day was a great success – I was running on adrenalin (more like beer) at the end of the evening and was really happy with the results.  To top it all I was showered with compliments from the Groom’s father, a man when growing up, I had greatly revered and knew that such compliments were never given easily.

So what lessons did I learn?  Planning is key.  Knowing in your mind the types of shots you are aiming to get before the day, helps massively.  Chat with the bride and groom about the sort of shots they are after and write a list of the “banker shots” that every wedding should have.  Pre-scout the venues and locations to get an idea of nearby places that could offer good photographic opportunities, use Google Earth and Flickr to help you out with this.  Build rapport with the bride and groom to put them ease… in this instance this was easy for me as they had been lifelong friends.  Don’t be afraid of getting into the best position for a shot especially post reception and ceremonies when you’ll have competition for good pictures from the guests.  HAVE FUN and most of all don’t worry too much about breaking that rule e.g. don’t be the photographer for a friend’s wedding.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.  After the event I compiled the pictures together and sent off the shots to be published as a photo book.  Having been a guest at many weddings I can honestly say that being a guest and the photographer was an honour.  Witnessing and sharing in such a big event in peoples’ lives is one thing, but knowing you have helped to document this event and that for years to come my friends will be able to look back at the photo’s I’ve taken and remember their special day fills me with pride.

Popped My Lightroom Cherry, again. This time I like it!!!

Sanctuary of the Lady of Lourdes

After a number of years avoiding having to spend a fortune on 3rd Party software and managing my workflow using a combination of Canon’s DPP (Digital Photo Professional) and Picasa to organise  my photos, I’ve finally decided to give Adobe Lightroom a look.

I have actually tried Lightroom in the past (probably version 2-3) but I never really got on with it.  The omission of various features and functionality that I’d grown used to via other tools meant I wasn’t prepared to shell out extra cash for something that would mean either dropping parts of my workflow or continuing to use additional software, as well as lightroom.

This has all changed now after I recently downloaded a full trial of Lightroom 5.3.  Those missing features are now included so I thought why not give it another go.  It seems that you can’t really consider yourself a serious photographer if you aren’t using either Photoshop, Lightroom or both at the core of your workflow or that’s what most of the photography press would have you believe.

Now being new (relatively) to Lightroom can be quite a daunting prospect.  There is a steep learning curve to switch across from DPP which I still find more intuitive in terms of RAW processing if I’m honest.  I thought I’d hunt out a few tutorials on the Adobe site and possibly look into getting a book on the subject to make sure I was setting up Lightroom correctly and understood the various “modules”,  I really advise newcomers to Lightroom to do the same, avoid the temptation of jumping straight in at the deep end and take your time to familiarise yourself.

My saviour in this process was quickly found via the extremely helpful and unsung hero of Lightroom, Anthony Morganti.  When searching for Lightroom tutorial videos on YouTube I stumbled across Anthony’s Channel, opened the lid (so to speak) and discovered a wonderful world of photography tips, tricks and tutorials including a playlist specifically geared at teaching Lightroom with over 8 hours (30+ videos) covering the subject, best of all Anthony provides these resources for FREE!!!  So if like me you’re new or returning to Lightroom you really can’t go wrong with Anthony’s videos and you will save having to buy further material to help you get into the software.

So after watching a number of videos I’ve started on my journey of moving across to Lightroom.  Two weeks in and I’ve purchased the full license so I guess you can say I’m committed now and am making my way through the back catalogue .  I’m sure to blog more on this subject in due course but in the meantime if any of you ladies and gents reading have lightroom tips to share, please do by commenting on this post.  BTW the picture above is one of the first pictures I’ve re-processed using Lightroom 5 – I’m going to have to be very selective about which of my past photo’s I have a play with using Lightroom or I’m going to be here a while!!!!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the weekend.